Monday, December 24, 2018

Unelected and Unhinged

“A fool thinks himself to be wise, but a wise man knows himself to be a fool.”
William Shakespeare 

Think about it.   Hillary Clinton got three million more votes than Donald Trump.  Many Americans saw the handwriting on the wall before the election. An election hacked by the Russians, and aided by an inept, quiescent, uninspired campaign by the Democratic candidate, and the general antipathy toward Mrs. Clinton artfully employed by Mr. Trump, a master flim-flam man.  A man who still knows how to appeal to the baser instincts of a dispossessed minority.  A minority vulnerable to a cynical promise that they would get their coal mining and auto assembly jobs back, 80% of which are forever lost to technological displacement.  When Trump made those mendacious promises, he probably knew they were wickedly disposed to fool misguided souls who supported him and still mostly do.

We have a president who does not have the confidence of close to 70% of the American public.  If a vote of no confidence were held today, the president would not get more than 38% of the vote. And in a system that were fair he would never have been elected in the first place.  We have an unelected president.  And what is worse, an unelected president whose fealty is to himself alone and less able to accept responsibility than a raging Pinocchio.

The sorry fact remains that if the House of Representatives were decided by non-gerrymandered districts, it would have been Democratic all along, the midterm results starkly emphasizing gross abandonment by white, suburban, former (mostly educated white women) supporters.  And if the electoral college had been abolished, there would have been no war in Iraq, climate change would have been addressed earlier, and the nation would not now be in the throes of being sold out to our adversaries by a corrupt criminal enterprise

All of this generated by the anachronistic electoral college and a system engineered over a compromise in 1789 Philadelphia where the framers were obliged to pacify landowners in Southern states more concerned with their sovereignty and perpetuating slavery than equal representation.  The Constitution provided our nation the stability needed in the crucible of creation.  Those present at the genesis that sizzling summer in Philadelphia knew that without it lay disunity and disunion.  That did happen 80 years later anyway.

At the founding, the delegates to the constitutional convention feared the evils of centralized power and in that fear created a system for the thirteen colonies that distributed the power in the senate among states that were populated with only 3 million people.  And now that system perpetuates representation that allows people in North Dakota with 500,000 people the same representation in the Senate as California with 40,000,000 people in a nation of over 300,000,000.  (The system also provided that slaves were 3/5ths of a person in determining apportionment of the members of the House of Representatives with the members of the electoral college calculated on a similar basis.)

The advantages of this system of government no longer work.   The rationale of a geographically balanced (power to vacant land) system has given us a minority president five times in our nation’s history, the most recent of whom were George W. Bush who lost the popular vote by 500,000 voters and now Donald Trump, no fitter for office than an errant school boy and loser of the popular vote by the largest number in the nation’s history.

But wait. It gets worse. There is much talk of impeachment, of "high crimes and misdemeanors," which are basically a political rationale for long vote of no confidence.    Impeachment is a political, not a legal process.  And it was designed by those same framers to excise unfit presidents; Impeachment starts in the House of Representatives, however, not one president has been convicted in the Senate and removed from office.   Arguably, Richard Nixon (at least an intelligent crook) would have been removed but resigned having been told by a bipartisan group of Senators that he did not have the votes to remain.

Unlike George Washington whose humility manifested itself in his temperate and self-effacing behavior and who assembled a stellar cabinet of statesmen and turned down a crown, Trump has surrounded himself with sycophants, admires dictators and tyrants, would like a crown, and carving away at our institutions. 

Those voicing policy differences with him are humiliated, fired or demeaned in tweets which could be better written by an angry seven-year-old.  Many other presidents sought the best talent they could for their cabinet and not fearing but instead seeking diversity of opinion.  Lincoln had a team of impressive rivals whose initial respect for him was slim, until he chose them to work together to save the union.  His own team members called him an ignorant baboon before his election but by appealing to the better angels of their nature and of the nation he did save the union. Many presidents, good and bad, had different personalities, but none were so obviously unhinged as Trump.  Perhaps that is a product of today’s unbridled media, or some other dark psychological processes, but still, the trauma imposed upon the nation is breathtaking.

The concept of humility and measured thought of what is occurring in the world, does not even register with a man who does not read, who does not think of others and thinks narcissistically how to bask in faux adulation. Tax cuts for corporations that buy back their own stock and enhance their bottom line, one robot displacing four workers in “value added zones,” as recent economic analysis shows, money distorting the electoral process, climate change denial, a plunging stock market, immigrant scapegoating, racist pandering, rampant corruption, abandonment of allies, criminality and just plain demagoguery.  The two years left in the term (hopefully not) has produced a tranquilizer popping public riddled with anxiety.

Finally, what does this say about Republican members of congress who have enabled and even encouraged such behavior?  I speak of Mitch McConnell, a reptilian paradigm of a power hungry zombie whose utterances debase us all.  Let us not forget the departing Paul Ryan, a fraudulent unprincipled puppet whose master is party over country.  What does it say about those who voted for this band of knaves? They are angry, mostly rural people who, having been ignored by the elites on the left and on the right vented their frustration and gave us Frankenstein instead.  All this speaks volumes about FOX news propagandists who have enabled and encouraged the Trump metastases by giving a platform to pundits not worthy of the appellation.

What we really should be talking about are the three greatest threats to the world, hardly mentioned:  climate change, technological displacement, and nuclear war as well as a need in the not too distant future for a Universal Basic Income and a renewed infrastructure.  But the Trump conversation sucks all the air out of the room because it all seems like a horrid and surreal nightmare.  People actually cannot believe what is happening.  We are watching  a grand guignol cinema verite horror show.

 What will be the judgment of history about how a frenzy of anger over technological displacement amid those whom Theodore Roosevelt called the “malefactors of great wealth?”

Of such complacency and indifference of the political elite to a displaced, shrinking middle class, are revolutions born.


  1. David, you're addressing several topics here. Most of them have to do with current politics, like whether or not Donald Trump is fit, and other particulars. No, he's breathtakingly terrible.

    But the other main issue has to do with whether or not he was, as you discuss it, elected. This is a curious question. Clearly, he did not earn the confidence of the majority of the voters. Another candidate got more votes than he did. But he was elected by the Electoral College, which is our current system. So instead of saying he was not elected, I say he was elected on a technicality, by a minority of the voters. I agree with your complaint, but the conclusion is wrong.

    If we can agree that he was elected on the Electoral College technicality, the question, as you address it, becomes whether or not we should consider the Electoral Collage legitimate and reasonable. This is very tricky. You also mention gerrymandering, which is problematic, but you don't draw the connection between gerrymandering and the Electoral College. Both were established to prevent the disenfranchisement of some Americans. And the Electoral College was further formed to address the untidy matter of the "fitness" of many Americans to exercise good judgement about who should represent them. Given the continued support Trump gets from even <40% of Americans, it's hard to argue in favor of the judgement of American voters.

    In my opinion, as in yours, the Electoral College has outlived its usefulness in preventing Americans from being disenfranchised. And I have no illusions that those Americans who are helped by the Electoral College would agree with me and you. We could still ask the question of whether it's fair that the residents of 10-20 large population areas in this country get to decide who's president. Are we in fact re-disenfranchising the rest of the people, and their interests (farming, etc)? And let's remember, as you point out, that Hillary Clinton could have done better with the Electoral College, but she didn't bother to campaign enough. So do we indict the College, or Hillary Clinton?

    As for gerrymandering, it's there for a reason. I completely agree with you that it has been corrupted to give party advantages, but we are at some peril if we think it should just be scrapped. I think its original purpose, and the original rules for its application and design, are right. The current distortion is wrong. So I agree with you that gerrymandering is now/recently a bad thing, but in particular, not in principal.

  2. My youngest son thinks (and hopes) that we are headed for a revolution. I hope he is wrong, because no revolution since 1776 has turned out as well as ours did then, and I fear that a second American Revolution would fare no better than the French or Russian versions. Better by far to amend the Constitution to reflect current realities. What are the chances? Slim, I fear, but we need to get the country going on it, or your dire predictions may well come true.